THE Penrhyn Quarry Railway (PQR) unexpectedly closed in mid-July. Initial (unofficial) reports emerged suggesting the site was in the process of being vacated with the stock to be dispersed to other heritage locations, followed by a post on Penrhyn Quarry Railway’s Facebook page just after 22.00 on July 14. This stated, “It is true that the Penrhyn team are moving from Felin Fawr, the railway is not being evicted. Over the past few weeks it has become clear that the railway could not continue at Felin Fawr due to circumstances beyond our control. We will be issuing a further statement once all of our supporters have been contacted and informed of what is going on.”
A notice then appeared on the lines website stating, “the Penrhyn Quarry Railway will no longer be running trains for the foreseeable future due to unforeseen circumstances. We thank everyone for their support and custom at the railway.”
PQR Engineering Ltd has left the Felin Fawr site but the railway will apparently remain in situ, although who might operate it is currently unknown. The planned visit by Bressingham’s newly-overhauled Hunslet 0-4-0ST Gwynedd from the end of August and encompassing PQR’s September 16-17 gala was cancelled and most, if not all, locos and stock have left the site.
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Manning Wardle 0-4-0ST 1382/1897 Jubilee 1897, owned by Welsh Slate Ltd (successors to the original Penrhyn Quarry owners) and on long-term loan to Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust (NGRMT) went to the site late last year to be restored to steam and dismantling had commenced. A statement issued by NGRMT confirmed it had, “decided with regret to remove the locomotive from its present site because it has become clear that the locomotive’s future there is no longer secure. Welsh Slate Ltd have fully supported the Trust’s action, and have expressed a preference that the locomotive remains in Wales. This means that the current plans for its restoration to working order have to be suspended for the time being.”
The Vale of Rheidol Railway’s Chief Executive Officer, Robert Gambrill, offered accommodation and Jubilee 1897 was relocated to Aberystwyth at the end of July with the agreement of Welsh Slate Ltd. NGRMT says it remains committed to restoring the loco to operation as a long-term objective, although this depends on securing the necessary funding.
The two 1980s South Tynedale Railway-owned wooden-bodied carriages leased to PQR (RM, August 2016) were relocated to Ffestiniog Railway’s Minffordd yard at the end of July for temporary storage until the PQR situation is clarified and Steve Currin’s ex-Abbey LR Motor Rail 20hp Simplex 5859/1934 No. 3 Odin is understood to have gone to Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. The RM understands Barry Fitzpatrick’s 2015-built 0-4-0VBT Fernilee, purchased from John Sutton in May to provide resident PQR steam, could be relocated to Bressingham for a while although no definite agreement had been signed at the time of writing.
The original Penrhyn Railway closed in 1962. Moves to revive a section of the line date back to around 2003, tracklaying at Felin Fawr commencing about three years later. The short line between Coed y Parc bridge and St Ann’s Bridge was officially opened on July 24 2012, the 50th anniversary of official closure of the original railway, with Bressingham’s ex-Penrhyn Hunslet 0-4-0ST George Sholto (HE 994/1909) visiting for the occasion. The line has subsequently held galas with visiting steam and announced plans to significantly extend the railway back towards the quarry.
Efforts to contact a PQR spokesman to seek clarification concerning the the railway have been unsuccessful.
Report by CLIFF THOMASEnjoy more of The Railway Magazine reading every month. Click here to subscribe.